Saturday, May 28, 2016

More Than a Mask

Last Thursday, May 19, 2016, Candace Payne, a wife and mother of two, went shopping for yoga pants.  Being somewhat disappointed that she couldn’t find the pants she wanted for exercising, she decided to go to the toy section to purchase something for her kids.  She had seen the Star Wars Chewbacca mask, but didn’t consider it, until her shoulder accidentally hit the box and she heard the character growl.  Then and there, Candace decided that the kids could play with the mask, but ultimately it would be hers to keep. 

After the purchase, Candace went to her car and excitedly Facebooked her friends so they could see her new purchase.  She proceeded to take the Chewbacca mask out of the box and put it over her face.  As the mask began to growl, Candace caught a glimpse of her face in the rearview mirror, and began to laugh hysterically.  As her friends reacted, the uncontrolled laughter continued and also brought tears to her eyes. 

Later that afternoon, Candace posted the video to Facebook; and as they say…the rest is history.  Within three days, the video had gone viral with over 140 million hits, breaking all kinds of records as the most viewed video.  People from all over the world have responded.  Candace was interviewed on the radio, and also appeared on several television programs.  Mark Zuckerberg even invited her to the Facebook Headquarters and made arrangements for her to visit with the “Real” Chewbacca.  Wherever she went, Candace seemed to be a spreader of joy.  Even when she didn’t have the mask on, at the time of the interview, Candace exuded joy to the interviewers and other spectators.

And for more of the story…Candace Payne credits the source of her joy to God. She is a natural spreader of joy because as a believer she knows the true Source of joy.   Candace is a worship leader and volunteer at The Oaks Fellowship in Red Oak Texas.  She is also using her platform to spread the joyous news about Jesus.  Two days after the video was posted, Candace spoke to young creatives at the Regional Fine Arts Conference in Texas.  Instead of focusing on her recently discovered fame, she spoke to the students about the importance of God in her life.  At the age of 16, she had a dream and vision from the Lord that her life was going to be used for His glory.  Now at 37 she said that she’s not sure what all that means, “But that dream has never left my heart, nor my mind, nor the way that I walk and follow Jesus.”

She continued.  “It doesn’t matter how talented, how anointed, how gifted, how passionate, or how willing you are if you’re not fit to do the things God has called you to do…And that is spiritually fit.  The thing that will take you further and farther in the Kingdom of God is three things:  diligence, patience, and obedience.

1  Diligence - Be diligent in the work of the Lord.
2  Patience – Have those moments where you stop and you wait upon the Lord.  Don’t rush into ministry or a good opportunity because it looks shiny.  Wait for the voice of God to direct you.
3  Obedience – Have obedience.  When He tells you ‘Move’ – move.  When He tells you ‘Stop’ – stop.  When He tells you ‘Indulge in the delights of My table’ – indulge.  But when He tells you, ‘That’s not yours; you can’t have it.’ – step away.  Do not try to make a name for yourself.  His name will always out shadow yours.”

She concluded her message with Romans 15:13:  “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

In the not too near future, the fame and interviews will slow down and stop, the mask may eventually stop working or break, but because Candace’s source of joy is dependent on  the Lord, and not the Chewbacca mask, it will continue.  Along with Candace Payne, may we accept the assignment to be God’s bearers of joy to a world who needs to know His gift of salvation, peace, love, and joy.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
Job 8:21

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Psalm 19:8

But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Psalm 68:3

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:9-11

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Rejoice always,
I Thessalonians 5:16

Saturday, May 21, 2016

100 Years and Still Making it Count

Ella Mae Colbert is a retired teacher from Spartanburg County, District 2.  Desiring more than to be pictured on the Smucker’s label on her 100th birthday, Ms. Colbert wanted to be a record breaker for the 100-meter dash for people her age.  Plans were set in action and Ella Mae was to run the 100-meter dash at Chesnee Middle School in Chesnee, South Carolina, a few days after celebrating her 100th birthday.

Colbert’s family had contacted an official timing company, so they could send the results to Guinness World Records, if she did indeed break the world record for people 100 years of age.  On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, the time had come for the run to take place.  Ella Mae’s family, people from the community, teachers, administrators, students, a camera crew, and the official timers lined the track to cheer her on to victory.

Ella Mae went to the starting line, waited for the gun to signal the start of the race, and started the race.  After running a few feet, Colbert tripped and busted her chin.  She had to have the chin bandaged up.  Then she went back to the starting line to try again.  This time, Ella Mae Colson finished the 100-meter dash and crossed the finish line in 46.79 seconds, breaking the world record of the previous 100 year old which was 77 seconds. 

After the race, Ms. Colbert thanked the people for their support and encouragement.  She reminded them that even though she may have broken the record that didn’t mean she was done.  Ever the teacher, she also told the crowd, “You do not stop.  Go ahead.  You’ll have some trials and you’ll have something that gets in your way, but you don’t let it get you down.  You get up; you go again.  Do your best at anything you do.”  Sounds like a great lesson for all of us to take to heart.  No excuses.  On your mark.  Get set.  Go!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
Philippians 3:13-15

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
Acts 20:24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
I Corinthians 9:24

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:3

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Testing, Testing

Whether it’s a microphone check, exams, end of year tests, for medical purposes, or daily occurrences, testing is part of our everyday lives.  For students, this time of year seems to be consumed with tests as they recall and demonstrate how to apply what they have learned.  Some tests cover a lesser amount of material while other exams cover content for the semester.  Whereas most tests are announced, there can be surprise pop quizzes along the way.

When Larry was in seminary, one of his professors had a student pray at the beginning of each class session.  But on test day, the professor chose to be the one to pray.  He would always include, “Help them do as well as they prepared.”  The students would have much rather he asked for grace rather than holding them accountable for their study and preparation.

God’s Word reminds us that God examines and tests our heart, motives, and actions.  He desires that we do the same.  We are to also test and approve God’s Will for our lives and the gift of His abundant, overflowing blessings.  Paul instructs us to test all prophesies and spirits to make sure they are from God.  We are to hold on to the good and reject the evil.  When our faith is tested, it will produce perseverance.  And when perseverance finishes its work we will be mature and complete. 

Now it’s time to pray, study, and prepare so we are ready to take action when the tests in life come our way.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.
Proverbs 17:3

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Malachi 3:10

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
Galatians 6:4-5

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
I Thessalonians 5:20-22

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Covering all the Bases

Our grandson, David, is playing t-ball for the first time.  The game is more than just looking cute and handsome in the uniform.  There is a lot to remember and learn during these days of practices and games.  The ball players need to know where to stand, how to hit, what to do when contact with the ball occurs, and how and when to advance bases.  To advance, the runners must touch every base, in the proper order, to score.  Amidst all the other noises, they are learning the importance of knowing and listening for their coach’s voice to hear instruction.  Then there is another level of learning when their team takes the field.  They need to catch or chase the ball, know where to throw it, and be aware of where the runners are at all times.  

Mastering t-ball will not happen overnight or with just a lesson or two.  It is important to have a teachable and willing spirit.  The more the boys practice the techniques correctly and become more aware of where to throw the ball, the better chances they have to improve their abilities to play.  It also helps for the kids to have a coach, who is patient, can teach, and is knowledgeable about the game.  These days are also ones of learning from defeat and winning graciously.

God knew that we would continually need to learn and be instructed on how to live in the game of life.   We have the Bible as our instruction book and His Holy Spirit to teach and guide us along the way.  With all the busyness and noise around us, it is vital that we learn to identify and listen to His voice and respond in obedience.  Just like athletes need to wear protective equipment, we, too, need to make sure we dress in God's protective armor every day.  Some days God calls us to be the coaches who encourage, inspire, and teach.  Other times we need to be the players who soak up the instruction and information and then put it into practice.  God has given all believers the responsibility and opportunity to share what we’ve experienced and learned from and about Him with others and to encourage them on their journey.    

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Colossians 3:16

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:15

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17